Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Southern" vs. "Mainstream"

In his article, "Carrying America's Shadow," David Payne makes an interesting point...why is it that successful Southern writers, such as Lee Smith, don't seem to have the same fame and readership north of Washington, D.C. ? It's something worth thinking about...does the "regionalism" that distinguishes Southern writers and helps set us apart as something special also hinder us? As Payne points out, you don't often hear about "Northern" writers--they're called, instead, "national" writers.

The second half of Payne's article gets a bit labored, in my opinion, veering into racial stereotypes of "rednecks," etc... and isn't as well argued as the first half.

I think he makes a good point, though, that writers who've distanced themselves from the South seem to have done better nationally than writers who've focused on and celebrated their "regionalism." But is it worth it?

"Cormac McCarthy, after setting several novels in his childhood home of Knoxville, left the South, literally and figuratively, and gained attention writing about the West. Anne Tyler, though a Southerner, writes of a Baltimore with little native inflection. Barbara Kingsolver, who grew up in Kentucky, wrote for years of the Southwest, and then of Africa, and only late into the game, and from the vantage of success, returned to her Appalachian roots."

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